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Prayer of Petition and Service

by Mar 23, 2023Friar Reflection

It seems that Israel, the community of ex-slaves gathered in the desert after the Exodus, was not all that different from us today: impatient, complainers, and idolaters. Today we don’t build golden calves, but we continue to put our confidence and trust in ourselves and other forces: insurance and retirement plans, fame, fortune, education, violence, force, drugs, science, medicine, power, or anything that makes us feel good. These are our modern idols that separate us from God the source of true life and joy. We constantly fool ourselves into thinking that as modern, scientific people we no longer have idols. Yet we put many things before God in our daily lives.

Moses is caught between unfaithful, idolatrous Israel and God who has decided to eliminate Israel and start over with just Moses. Rather than accept that proposal, Moses dialogs with God in favor of pardoning Israel. He does not accept the self-righteous attitude by praying for the elimination of everyone else. Here we see the service of prayer in favor of others. So often our prayer is self-centered and limited to petitions for ourselves, sometimes even a self-righteous prayer. We forget that our prayer can also be centered in the needs of others. Without Moses’ constant prayer and relation with God, Israel would have been lost in the desert.

There is a preamble to the ten commandments that we as Christians tend to skip over.

“Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh.”  — Deuteronomy, 6:4

The first commandment is: listen. And the second is: the Lord is one, there is no other. This eliminates all idolatry from the life of a faithful person. After that there is a place in our hearts for the ten commandments and new law as given to us by Jesus. The elimination of idolatry and sin enables us to have a good relationship with God and to constantly pray, live and work for the common good, for the needs of others.

Lent is a time to eliminate the golden calves from our lives and re-center our hearts on our relationship with God and others.